London: There are certain things which can be associated with Pakistan cricket: decent batting, exceptional fast bowling, and poor fielding. The country, which has produced brilliant pacers and batsmen over the years, have just not been able to produce exceptional fielders. And that has once again been on display in the ongoing edition of the World Cup.
Despite producing geniuses with bat and ball, fielding has always remained a cause of concern for the Green Brigade. This time too, butterfingers have been on display every time the Pakistan players have taken the field. Let alone catches, Sarfaraz Ahmed's team has raised eyebrows even with regular fielding efforts.
In the six matches played so far in the World Cup, Pakistan have dropped as many as 14 catches. On the other hand, their arch-rivals India have been exceptional in terms of fielding and have dropped only one catch in the four complete matches they have played.
Even in the game against South Africa on Sunday, Pakistan dropped six catches while defending 308. Out of the six, Mohammed Amir dropped three -- one off his own bowling, one at third man and one at long-off. However, to their luck, the missed chances on the field didn't have any bearing on the result as they won the match by 49 runs and kept alive their hopes of making it to the semi-finals.
As mentioned earlier, it's not just their catching which has let them down on a number of occasions in the tournament, even their ground fielding has been substandard and has already been under the radar of many cricket pundits.
During their 89-run defeat against India, Sarfaraz Ahmed's boys were seen fielding as if they were trying to catch chickens. In that very match, they missed a very easy opportunity to run-out Rohit Sharma as the fielder threw at the wrong end. The ODI vice-captain of the Indian team went on to score 140 and almost demolished all chances of Pakistan registering their first World Cup win against the Men in Blue.
And it's not something which Pakistan haven't been working upon. Ever since Mickey Arthur became the head coach, he has been working relentlessly on improving the fielding standards of his team.
While reviewing Pakistan's win over Proteas, Arthur seemed frustrated with the repeated mistakes that his team has been committing on the field.
"We train and we train and we train, and we've put in massive amounts of work (fielding)," he said. "That's something we'll be exploring again in the next couple of days because we can't be dropping that many catches and expect to beat teams getting into almost a knockout phase for us."
Going into the next three games, Pakistan really need to tighten up their screws and improve their fielding standards, especially against New Zealand, who are considered amongst the best fielding sides in the world.
"Pakistan's fielding was just not good. They dropped fairly easy catches and that needs to be rectified. Their fielding has to improve," says former speedster Shoaib Akhtar calling on the Green Brigade to improve their fielding standards.
The current crop of Pakistan cricketers, barring one or two, seems to lack the agility and the fitness standards which the current form fast-paced cricket demands. Earlier, fielding used to be secondary aspect of cricket with the game being restricted to Test and ODIs. However, now with the advent of T20s, the game has become highly professional and has become more demanding.
Even India, which was once counted among the weak fielding sides, is now a top fielding force to reckon with. M.S. Dhoni, while he used to captain the national side, once said he wants India to become the best fielding side in the world and they are on course to do just that.
But Pakistan have a long way to go before they can even put their hands up and win games with their fielding efforts.